US Diplomatic Officials Unaware of Indian Minister Khan’s Boston Airport Detention

Following September 11, 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created and today, TSA secures the nation’s airports and screens all commercial airline passengers and baggage

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Washington, DC – Top US diplomatic officials were unaware late Thursday afternoon of the brief detention of Uttar Pradesh Development Minister Mohammad Azam Khan upon arrival at the airport in Boston this week, though the Indian embassy in Washington, DC claimed that the US State Department had been notified.

Khan, who was accompanying State Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav for a presentation of a Harvard study on the Kumbh Mela pilgrimage, was detained for about 10 minutes for “further questioning” at Boston Logan International Airport on Wednesday morning, according to airport sources.

Asked to comment on the incident, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told India America Today at the daily press briefing that he was “not aware of the specifics of this case.” “It’s the Department of Homeland Security that has jurisdiction over airport movements here inside of the United States. So on that specific case, I refer you to them.”

“I do want to underscore that we have a very important bilateral relationship with India and a very robust and thorough diplomatic exchange with our partners,” he said. “We very much value our partnership with the Government of India.”

According to various accounts, after the Indian delegation was cleared for entry by immigration officials, a woman officer of the US Customs and Border Protection wing of Homeland Security took Khan to an adjacent room “for further questioning.”

Khan is reported to have become incensed in the immigration area, saying he was detained because he was a Muslim. He demanded an apology from the officer, who then retaliated, threatening to detain Khan, as she said she was merely doing her job. As the argument became heated, officials from the Indian consulate in New York intervened and Khan was escorted out of the airport.

According to a statement on the website of the Harvard South Asia Institute, Khan is invited to speak at its Annual Symposium. The statement read, “The Harvard India Student Group have invited Mr. Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister, U.P. and Mr. Azam Khan, Minister of Urban Development, U.P. for a panel discussion with Harvard Students on April 26th. The conversation will cover topics such as vision of the state leadership, governance and major initiatives being run, Kumbh festival, urbanization challenges and how Harvard students can engage with state government to contribute to the Indian society.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one US official lamented the “attitude” problem as Indian politicians and Bollywood personalities do not understand the procedures and want a “blind chit” to enter the US. When the name of an entering person is entered into the system and a red flag goes up, the immigration official is duty bound to double check the person’s identification, explained the official. “A little cooperation, rather than haughty attitude, goes a long way,” said the official.

The Azam Khan case is the latest in a long list of Indian VIPs being detained at US airports. Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and even India’s then ambassador (in 2010) to the US, Meera Shanker, were subjected to additional scrutiny by US security agents.

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